Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On Creativity, Problem Solving, and Perfectionism

The other day Stampin' Up! shared the following thoughts on Creativity with demonstrators.

  • Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. --Rev. Mary Lou Cook


  • Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple Computers, once noted that "creativity distinguishes leaders from followers."

Both quotes made me think about Creativity as a characteristic and as a way of life. I've spent most of my life being creative... with physical materials (fabric, paper, yarn, etc.. ), with home decor (making do with what I have but making it look the best it can... Avocado Green is coming back, baby!), as a small business owner (I owned a wholesale/retail tile and stone business and was a software support analyst) and with finances... finding ways to balance my creative supplies yet be financially responsible (which often means staying out of craft stores and malls).

I blurffed a bit and found a delightful site: On Creativity by Sternberg and Williams. I thought about copying and pasting passages to my site... or doing a week long series on creativity but decided to offer the link instead. The site repeatedly links Creativity with Character and Problem Solving. I found that extremely interesting because that is one of my main perspectives in life... see a problem, define the problem... solve and/or resolve the problem.. it's just what needs to be done.. no hoopla.

Example: On my way to the post office yesterday, I noticed a car stopped in the middle of the road just a few feet from my home. The doors were open, and an elderly lady stood at the foot of a nearby driveway. I live in a very big metropolitan area and therefore was proceeding with caution. I made a wide berth around the car and passed slowly... nobody seemed in distress. I proceeded to the corner, and peered at the trio through my rearview mirror, I noticed the elderly lady waving a gas can... Problem identified. I made a quick u-turn and returned to the scene, gave the driver a ride to the nearest gas station, and back to her car... Problem solved.

Perhaps it is because for my mathematical background that I was so enthralled with that prospect of linking problem solving with creativity... or perhaps it is because of my Mother.. YES.. dare I go there, my Mother.

I have to tell you my Mother was an excellent cook, but rarely was able to complete a creative project... ANY creative project! She found fault and found problems with everything... if it was sewing, she tore apart seams and re-cut the pieces repeatedly until she ran out of fabric or ruined the project. It wasn't because she was distracted, chatting, or not paying attention as often is the case... Outsiders would assume that she was a perfectionist, I don't really think she was... there were many imperfections in her life. It was instead her own perception of her personal self worth and creative ability compounded with a need for attention, and control which restricted her from being creative, solving problems, or finding a creative resolution. My Mother assumed (incorrectly) that to be good at something, you must have success at your first attempt and that her piece must be precisely like the sample... not realizing that her sample was expressing her very own unique and and special brand of creativity. On the rare occasion she did achieve crafting success, it wasn't because she was because the instructor slowly walked her personally through each tiny little step. Often time that instructor was me... perhaps that is one of the contributing factors to my high blood pressure (Ya think, Denozo??).

As a children, Mother told us she was raising her children to be 'perfect'. In absolute defiance, I would retort "Only God is perfect, that's what they teach us in school!" Needless to say, I'm still not a perfectionist, although I have to admit that like most people I do have some perfectionist traits... I can tell you I gave it a try in my early years of marriage.. My husband laughed... there was no way he was going to fit into THAT mold! Years later, I truly prefer the creative freelance possibilities in life. I do know some perfectionist, and have posted and shared some of their work on my site... Happy perfectionists find a balance between the demand they personally put on themselves and life itself... and unhappy perfectionists generally spread unhappiness. By definition, most people share some perfectionist tendencies... but when out of control, it can be quite unhealthy. Want to find out if you're a perfectionist? Take a quick listtle quiz online... click on this link: Discovery Health

Back to topic... I often encounter people who tell me they "don't have a creative bone"... If there is such a thing, it should be re-named a creative muscle. I truly believe everyone has creative potential... they just fail to exercise it on a regular basis. As a Stampin' Up! demonstrator I strive share my creativity, I often refer to myself as your creative coach. In the classroom, you will hear me state "there are no mistakes, just creative possibilities."

As a teacher and coach, I work very hard to bring new and fun things to the table.. it all takes time, a LOT of time. My motivation is both financial and personal... I am a business person, and my home is my place of business where I sell Stampin' Up! merchandise and promote my business... at my camps we use all Stampin' Up! products.

Personally, I love to see how much you appreciate all my work and the time I have spent preparing for a stamp camp or in home demonstration. I love to see you enjoying working on the projects, happily visiting with friends, and encouraging others. I love to see your completed your projects, and your creative twists and turns, and how you proudly take them to share with others along your path in life.

Still think you're lacking a creative muscle/bone? Take a moment to read through the 10 characteristics of the creative personality from Creativity - Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (pages 58-73)

  1. Creative individuals have a great deal of energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.
  2. Creative individuals tend to be smart....
  3. Creative individuals have a combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
  4. Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and rooted sense of reality at the other.
  5. Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion.
  6. Creative individuals are also remarkable humble and proud at the same time.
  7. Creative individuals to a certain extent escape rigid gender role stereotyping and have a tendency toward androgyny.
  8. Generally, creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent.
  9. Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.
  10. The openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.

Let go.. let your creativity flow, and Have a Creative, Happy, and Resolution Filled Day!!


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